And so, inevitably, Top Gear is plunged into another crisis after mouthy, shouty, “marmite” Chris Evans quits having turned BBC Two’s flagship ‘must watch’ show into a ‘must avoid’ car crash.
It was all so easy to predict – last March I said that the BBC needed to rest the series and then revive it with a radically overhauled format.
Instead they threw money at Evans, signed him to a three year deal and then rushed into production without any significant changes to the format in order to arrive back on to air before Jeremy Clarkson’s new show arrived.
But as I – and other long-time viewers have repeatedly said – Top Gear had been crafted around Clarkson and co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May.
The entire format, from the location films to the news section, was an excuse for them to piss take and banter and every shot was embodied with their obvious chemistry and friendship.
By comparison the Evans show lacked any warmth, any camaraderie and any sense of purpose.
The location films, while still gorgeously shot, often lacked any framing narrative and the loss of the news section gave strength to tabloid claims that the lead presenters clearly hated one another.
It was a huge, avoidable error to assume anyone could present Clarkson’s show and to lazily shove Evans – as divisive a ‘talent’ as it’s possible to get – into his format and mouth his lines.
As always the BBC spent most of the series in denial, insisting time and again that the show was performing well even as viewing numbers fell.
But the all-time low of 1.9m for Sunday’s episode means Evans and the Executives have run out of excuses.
This show was a flop.
Can it be rescued? Possibly.
But the brand has been seriously damaged both here and abroad where the show’s reported £50m a year profit is generated and Clarkson will soon be along with his Amazon show, The Grand Tour, reducing the appeal and demand for Top Gear.
Stupid, easily avoidable errors may well have robbed the BBC of its much needed cash cow right at the point when it’s meant to be making more money from commercial activities.